IVF can help couples conceive when they experience problems such as endometriosis, low sperm counts, ovulation problems, problems with the uterus, or antibodies attacking the eggs or sperm, as well as other fertility problems that may not be diagnosed. During IVF, sperm meets egg outside the womb and the embryo is left to grow in a culture dish until it is ready for implantation in the mother’s uterus. In the body, however, things aren’t so still. Aside from the fact that women don’t lie perfectly still for days following conception, fertilized eggs also get jostled around as they travel towards the uterus to implant. Now researchers are attempting to mimic this movement and are finding great success. The theory is that the closer doctors can mimic the human body’s natural conditions, the better, and that theory seems to be true.
Instead of putting fertilized eggs in a stationary culture dish, the embryos are placed in a new device that gently rocks them while they grow. They have been testing the device on mice embryos and the pregnancy rates in mice have increased by 22 percent. The embryos are healthier and have more cells, compared to those grown in the static dish. With this new device, IVF success rates approach those of natural conception.
If this technology works for human embryos, it will save couples who are using IVF to conceive a lot of money, stress and heartbreak. Fewer embryos will need to be transferred, decreasing the chances of multiples and each cycle will have a better chance of resulting in a successful pregnancy. Fewer cycles means lower costs, since IVF treatments are not covered by most insurance plans. IVF is extremely expensive. When treatments don’t work, it can be heartbreaking for the family, especially if they cannot afford to do another cycle.